The Constant Apprentice is a place for curious humans to explore craft, visual arts, writing, nature, food, and all things classic, then and now.
{ Curators: Roseann & Jonathan Hanson —> }|{ Craft }|{ Classics }|{ Travel }|{ Food }|{ Nature }|{ Science }|{ Writing }|{Visual Arts}

Dung beetles, Sonoran Desert

Dung beetles, Sonoran Desert an iPhone video by ConserVentures on Flickr.

We frequently see dung beetles diligently working the cow droppings around Ravenrock. Earlier this spring we watched six beetles at one fresh cow patty, madly rolling up dung into perfect spheres and then surprisingly quickly pushing it away with their hind legs, usually two beetles to a ball.

But yesterday we found these two just outside the front door to our cottage—and were just enchanted.

I need to research what species of dung beetles are here in the Sonoran Desert; it's possible these 2 are in the genus Onthophagus. 

Has anyone seen any like this before? To describe them as "adorable" seems antithetical to a dung-harvesting insect, but it's true!

10 comments:

  1. Am I correct in thinking that there were no dung beetles in North America before European settlement, and hence no resource-recycling the way that they do it?

    ReplyDelete
  2. We need to do some more research, Chas., but it does look like there are native dung beetles. In the scarab family (of which dung beetles are a member) there are 5000 species globally and some 1500 in North America. Several papers we have seen cite native species. Australia was pretty aggressive in introducing dung beetles from South Africa to cope with cattle dung. The native species were forest dwellers and could not handle savanna habitat.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Y'know, I bet that it was Australia that I was thinking of, since there were no large ungulates there before European cattle arrived.

      Delete
  3. I work in a large, natural habitat zoo, and see dung beetles working the exotic poo all the time! In my area(the Cypress Swamp habitat), I mostly see them working in the cougar exhibit. Sometimes the bored cougars can be seen batting a beetle about for sport......L.B. P. S. Dangit, you guys, I followed a trail over from Querencia, and I WANT TO HEAR ABOUT THE SABER-TOOTHED RABID SKUNK!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great anecdote about the cougars and beetles! And the tale of the rabid saber-toothed skunk requires high-proof fuel (usually of the American or Scottish whisky variety) . . . bacanora works, too.

      Delete
  4. Dang....no firewater fer moi, I'm likely to get violent! What about eating an entire large triple meat pizza? Nothing slows me down or fortifies me like a good pizza drunk.....L.B. P. S. This being such a small world, and you guys living in Arizona but kicking around Africa--do you know David Bygott and Jeanette Hanby, by any chance? I met them in Tanzania some years ago......

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. L.B.—amazing, we do know David and Jeanette! Had a great trip to northern Sonora, Mexico, with David last summer. And last October we saw many of David's wonderful murals in southern Serengeti, at a private lodge. Such a small world!

      Delete
  5. Chas: I also think there were native dung beetles; the earlier ecosystem would have been even better for them, and they are an old family. Perhaps the smaller number of herd species in Oz was a factor? But I never saw such SMALL ones!

    (Earthworms are another story).

    Lane: I can tell you the story that prompted Libby to create the saber- toothed specimen, but it is better to persuade the Hansons to tell it, beverages or no, preferably in alternating parts, because they were actually present. "And I looked up the trail behind him, and THERE IT WAS..."

    C'mon, guys, it would make a fine post...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Working on it, Steve! We've been away and super busy. Skunk post in due course, though, promise!

      Delete
  6. It is indeed a small(if big) world! I hope to bump into the Bygotts again someday....Tell them "Howdy" from me next time you see them! And I LOVE David's artwork....L.B.

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for your comment! We have enabled "moderation" so there may be a delay in posting your response.